The latest news from
GETS in Gambia


Week ending 12th July 2013

Our school at Sunrise belongs to a “Cluster” of schools (Cluster 6) which is part of the Kanifing Municipal Council area. This week we have some pictures of some of the pupils and students from Sunrise going to a Cluster 6 Party, funded by His Excellency, President Yahya Jammeh during his “dialogue with the people tour” country wide. This took part in a school not far away, Bakoteh Proper Lower Basic. A huge number attended this great day out made possible by the Presidents kind gesture.

 We also sent out our remaining Skills Students on an educational trip to a location known as “My Farm”. This gets the students to learn first-hand about the business of Agriculture, starting from the seed.


My Farm, near Nema Kunku, Wellingara is run by aid from another charitable foundation (see ). The students saw many things including a vast array of plants and new technological ideas about solar cooking, instead of burning wood.



The season of Ramadan has just begun in The Gambia (and across the Muslim world). This is the story of what happens within one family during this important religious time.

 “My entire family perform special prayers every night (“nafila”) to give our intentions to Allah before we begin our fast for the next day and we also thank Allah for enabling us to witness this year’s holy Ramadan. Every morning at 5:00 am, we wake up to have a meal (zuhr) before we begin our fast and then pray.

During Ramadan unlike other days we begin cooking at 2:00 pm to make sure that by 6:00 pm everything is prepared for the breaking of fast which is usually after 7:00 pm. We usually have tea/coffee, bread with an accompany or porridge and a main meal which is usually rice with an accompany.

Ramadan is a Holy month which my family receives with respect because it only comes once in a year.

RAMADAN MUBARAK  to everyone!!!!”


Older Students and all the Staff at Sunrise have to respect Ramadan too and things are quite different during morning break when eating and talking is exchanged for other distractions.

 Skills students during break on the first day of Ramadan.


Staff during break on the first day of Ramadan.



School closes on 19th July so that this is the last blog in the current academic year.


The Sunrise school will re-open late in September, with another Lower Basic classroom open ready for this year's Grade 1 students to progress to Grade 2.







Week ending 5th July

We are drawing to the end of term in the Sunrise Centre quite soon but our building works are still continuing.

I’m delighted to say that the new roof is now in place, protecting our new 4 classroom extension for the coming rains. We have had a few showers in the Banjul area but rain has been quite significant further in land with some flooding already.

The outside of the building is also being finished, with the rendering of the brickwork (locally known as “plastering”).

The remaining work to complete the inside finishes of the building extension will be authorised as the cash becomes available.

We are hoping to start the downstairs finishing quite soon, thanks to our generous sponsors.





Some of the soil is suitable for gardening in the compound at Sunrise, though the majority is really just sand. The caretakers have been trying their hand at Gardening. We have quite a bit of agricultural knowledge between Alassan, Saikou and Lamin. This is quite common in Gambia where many people support the country’s agriculture and we are encouraged to teach pupils and students with a school garden. Early days for the bananas and other plants but much more later, I hope . . . .

Practical work in the skills training courses take place throughout the year and it is always an opportunity to capture a colourful picture. Sendeng managed to snap Nyima Sillah (First year) with her Tie and Dye practical work just about dry


 Week ending 28th June

Since our last blog we have had a very successful Graduation ceremony for 25 students who are successfully leaving year 3 of Skills Training. Most of these young people already have jobs, largely secured as a result of completely a successful work experience programme set up by the Sunrise Centre.

In the picture below the graduates are shown posing with the teaching staff at Sunrise. (More on this in our Newsletter, due out in August).


Later in the week the remaining students enjoyed another Mufti Day. They each wore a traditional outfit of dress or just enjoyed coming to school without school uniform for the day. Those that could afford it, paid D5 (10p) for the privilege, the cash going towards school funds.

Here are Jarra, Awa and Iastou in dress from their traditional backgrounds.


 Later on Sendeng (our administrator) also caught up with the children in Lower Basic 1, with Mrs Jawara . . . . .

 . . . and Nursery 2, with Mrs Sanneh . . .

 . . . and Nursery 1, with Mrs Cham.

Mrs Cham leaves this class next term to teach in our Lower Basic School, helping to continue the education of Lower Basic 2 class, mostly promoted from within the Sunrise Centre. We have already interviewed and appointed a new teacher waiting to start to take over from Mrs Cham. More later . . .

Week ending 21st June

A  Parent Teacher Meeting was held to elect the School Management Committee, a requirement of the Gambian Education Department. Here is Helen and the new committee together with Mr Jarju, the Cluster Monitor (school inspector), who is squatting in front of the Sunrise SMC holding the School Management Manual which is provided by the Education Department for every Lower and Upper Basic school.

As I am going home this week after spending eight weeks at Sunrise, I had a last look around the classes and saw Njange and Florian from LB 1 painting the patterns which they had cut out.

Nursery 1 were busy colouring, developing their fine motor control, whilst thoroughly enjoying themselves!


Nursery 2 were busy looking at books

Later I saw LB1 again, this time Momodou Faja was chasing Mrs Jawara as they were playing Fire on the Mountain in the hall.

No pictures of the skills this week, although they have also been very busy, practising songs and plays for their graduation ceremony.  I am sure next week's blog will be full of photos of them at the graduation ceremony!



Week ending 14th June

Many of the third year skills students, who have finished their exams, have been into school to talk about Graduation Day, which will happen on 22nd June. The staff have also put in a lot planning to make sure that the Graduation Day is a joy for all and goes smoothly. I caught up Manyima Jagne (2011/2 Head girl), Njie Faye and Awa Sowe (two of them not in uniform) together with “Auntie”, who brings in food that she cooks at home to sell, every day.




Earlier, also at break-time, Amie and Mbacho handed out free food to the pupils from the Nursery school, as they do every day. This food is funded by donations paid into a feeding programme every year by our supporters.







Later in the week I caught up with some of the Lower Basic School pupils who had been reading to the school assembly. They stood a little longer for a photo call before returning to their classes.



Although the sun seems to be getting even hotter at this time of year it doesn’t seem to worry the students playing football outside. Sport is something that really motivates many young people and football is a common discussion point here. Last weekend the Gambian National team had been performing against Ivory Coast, losing 3-0 at home in the World Cup Qualifiers. The result didn’t tell the whole picture, since The Gambian side played well.



The Lower Basic School is now growing a new roof, the extension is quite clear now. Just in time before the rains begin. We have also had a go at levelling the ground around the front of the school to minimise the floods that we had last year. Only time will tell if this really helps!



Week ending 7th June

The week began in  the usual way, with a Skills assembly. This week Mr Ali Bah conducted the event but it was marked by sadness. We had heard that the mother of one of the pupils had passed away. The students held a minute's silence to pay their respects before filing out to their classes.

 We were much happier to welcome a new member of staff to our growing team. Marokey Bolang has joined us to help as a classroom assistant in Skills Training. She is a previous student, graduating 1 year ago, so everything is very familiar to Marokey. However, starting a new job is always a little nerve–racking for most people, but by the end of the week she seemed to have settled in.

Monday was a long day, ending with a PTA meeting to update parents on the workings of the centre and the changes planned for the next academic year. We had support from our good friend, Mrs Chow, who is a very respected member of the community. Mrs Chow is a retired head-mistress and member of the Gambian Education Department team. We also had support from Mr Jarjue, our local Cluster Monitor (School Inspector). Subjects discussed ranged from the production of next year's uniforms, an increase in school fees and how to involve the community more in the running of the Sunrise Centre.



Every year since we have helped at Sunrise, the Skills Students have made the Tie and Dye cloth for a Nursery School at London Corner, the school who competed against Sunrise in a Sports Day last week.  Helen administers this nursery school for a Scottish Charity, based in Dumbarton. Sufficient material was  produced to dress 90 pupils and all the staff in their distinctive yellow and black colours.

Mr Darboe is seen here with the students bringing the materials to be transported to London Corner, located just on the edge of Serrekunda.


We sometimes have events that cause our First Aiders to spring into action. Here Mr Ali Bah is washing a sore eye for Mariamma Bah (no relation).

Some eye infections are quite common in the Gambia and spread quickly due to the friendly nature of everyone, usually greeting each other by shaking hands. Although not serious, the saline solution proved helpful to Mariamma.










Week ending 31st May

We are delighted that our builder has now returned to the Gambia to help us complete the Phase 2. Work has started immediately to try and complete the new roof to protect the fabric from the rains, due soon. This is skilled work and begins with lots of sawing and angle-grinding of metal work to make the “Trusses” that support the roof. The worker (Tijan) shown here is using an old car engine frame as a bench and his foot as the vice to hold the metal work.

In the next picture the roofers can be seen welding the metal work into the “Truss”, with 2 others beneath, to act as a pattern or template.



 In the Sunrise Lower Basic school the children seem to break (or eat!) lots of pencils each day. Dawn has been helping in Sunrise since the end of April, giving lots of support in many varied ways to the LBS1 Teacher, Mrs Jawara. As well as taking training sessions and teaching children, Dawn takes her turn at sharpening masses of pencils.

We also get ready at this time of year for registration of next year’s new students. This begins in June and we advertise school places using locally made cloth signs on the gates of the school. Sendeng and Helen are examining the sign to see if it is as described to the artist. On this occasion an extra “L” has appeared in the word enrol!


Week ending 24th May

This week in Sunrise we have been looking hard at the discipline in our Lower Basic class. We have refreshed our approach to discipline and asked Kaddy Jawara (our teacher) to be much firmer with the children. We have also been keen to reward good behaviour too. Ya Jey Mbye was the best behaved student on Monday and she was given the octopus mask to say thank you.


 On the run up to Sports Day, the Nursery and Lower Basic pupils have been practising some of the events in advance. This reflects the very competitive view that all Gambians seem to have from  an early age. The event was a repeat of last year:-Sunrise v London Corner School. 


On the actual day the children enjoyed a wonderful day with no rain and bright sunshine! The competition was very tight and although I pushed to get a result I was told that “Everyone was a Winner!”. The events were very varied, ranging from running races to Lemon and Spoon racing, water play, musical chairs and obstacle races.


Practising musical chairs -

The actual competition-



Some of our skills students also worked with the teachers to manage and capture the results. This had been a problem last year but was much better, with clear results and little debate. The picture shows Susan Jarjue (from Skills 2) with Isatou Jallow(Sunrise), winner of the Girls 60m Dash. The Boys 60m Dash was won by Bubacarr Saho, also from Sunrise.


The picture below shows the Girls picking up the balls in basket, won by Sajo Jammeh from Sunrise.


  Sherrif Tamba, from Sunrise Nursery 1, and two boys  in red shirts,from London Corner, are all ready for their race.

The boys sack race was won in spectacular fashion by Bubacarr Saho (again) from Sunrise.

London Corner won the girls sack race with the help of Alimatou Cessay.

London Corner also won the Water Play competition. This involved 4 contestants from each team moving water from one bucket to another, with just their hands. The picture shows the London Corner team in red, with shouted support from Haddy (LC cleaner) and Kemo (LC Teacher).

Lunch was wonderful and cooked by the cooking staff from London Corner, Isatou Kambi (Teacher in Charge Mr Sulayman Saidy’s wife) and Binta Cessay.



Following lunch many of the adults (including parents) present formally handed out medals and trophies to the children. Most seemed to have something but a few gifted athletes had more than one. The picture shows all the medal winners. Thanks go to our supporters; Debbie and Graham Bradley from the Isle of Man who, with help from their friends, provided us with the medals.

A long and tiring but very enjoyable day for all.





Week ending 17th May

This week we saw several students and pupils coming into school to collect fees for school or college. One of them, Allen Loppy, is the brother of one of our 3rd year Skills students, Elizabeth Loppy. Allen is attending a Study of Tourism course and is hoping to support the many businesses servicing tourists in The Gambia. This is a new opportunity made possible by sponsorship from Richard Beech, after they met during his trip to The Gambia earlier this year.

We also had a visit to the Sunrise Office from Rabiatou and Tida Jarra, with their older sister Mamanding, who helps take care of them. They attend New Convent School in Serrekunda. Mike Moran and Angela Dillon have been sponsoring the family for a while now.

  Although it is hot each day and it hasn’t rained since last October (except for a few drops in January), things continue to grow in the soil and sand mixture around the Sunrise school complex. One of these plants is a stubborn tuber, known by the locals as a plant that can even grow through a concrete floor in a building and destroy foundations. It becomes a high priority to dig these up from the soil, at a depth of a metre at times, and destroy them. Our caretaker, Saiko is seen in the picture doing just this. A tuber of this rampant shrub is seen propped against the compound wall.

The Third Year Skills students have been doing their final written exams this week. They have come back from their work experiences and similar to last year more than 70% have promises of paid employment or will go back to apprentice positions on an expenses basis (generally food and bus fare) .



Week ending 10th May

It is now the end of the main tourist season and the two pictures below were taken at seven o'clock on Saturday night!

Looking up towards the highway

Looking down towards the GTS restaurant, now only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings

No more late night drumming and dancing at the Wild Monkey! Everything has been packed away till next season.

School continues as usual, although all the schools had a day off on Thursday for Ascension Day as schools get both Muslim and Christian holidays. This week the third year skills students have been doing their final practical exams. Here are two students preparing their pieces of cloth for their tie and dye practical.


Meanwhile other students were busy preparing their chosen dishes during the cookery practical exam.

Cooking finished, they carefully laid out their resulting dishes in an attractive display, ready to be assessed and marks awarded, both for taste and presentation.

Then the staff were asked to come along to see the results. Whilst Helen closely questioned the students about the actual cooking processes, other members of staff spent quite a while tasting them!

Week ending 3rd May

Our visitors this week were from Holland, Rudy and Yolanda Nachtegaal. They had seen Fran's old Gambia Tourist Support website so went to the GTS restaurant and, fortunately, Helen happened to be there. She told them how our educational charity, GETS, grew from GTS and arranged to bring them to visit Sunrise, so here they are with some of the nursery children.

This week our Lower Basic class had reached the pages in their maths text book about shapes, so they drew pictures using triangles, squares, rectangles and circles.



It will soon be sports day and the children are already beginning to practise!

On Friday the skills students enjoyed competing to answer  questions during a quiz on all aspects of their work at Sunrise.

Week ending 26th April

This week our visitors were Janet Marsh and her daughter Adele.  They were staying at the same hotel as Ian and during conversation had said that a visit to a small local nursery had tempted them to try and help the school in some way.  Ian invited them to come and see Sunrise to give them an idea of what could be achieved - with a lot of hard work and generous supporters.  Their driver 'Skinny' was a keen and interested bystander.

 In school the nursery classes were having an activity period - musical chairs!  Mr Mbye and the teachers enjoyed it almost as much as the children.


As with all schools the children are of mixed ability, here the LBS teacher Mrs Jawara  is doing some additional reading work with Njange Mbye.




It's a busy time in the Tie&Dye class too where the students are making uniform material for the London Corner school that we administer.  The bolts of cloth are first dyed yellow: this is a morning's work.

The cloth is then tied and given a second dunking in black to produce the final 'random' mottled colour effect - with quite a bit less black than the sample shown! Mr Darboe, the Tie &Dye teacher, looks as though he's playing hide and seek!

Dawn arrived in school on Wednesday and has spent almost all her time since in LBS - but she did find time to queue up with Helen for a spicy bean roll at break time.


On my last full day in the school this visit I took a walk around the quiet, empty classrooms to tuck the scene away in the memory banks!  Chairs on desks, it could be a school anywhere in the UK.  But it isn't and it is a fine tribute to the hardworking staff and also the many, many supporters who have made it possible.


 Week ending 19th April

Sunrise is open again after the spring holiday - a welcome break for staff and students alike. 

Because it is getting to the end of the tourist season there have been few visitors this week, in fact only two.  Karl Ward and his partner Cathy came to bring in some resources and get feedback from Helen on the progress of Binta Drammeh the student they sponsor at Kunkujang Keitaya Upper Basic School.




We like to keep a track of visitors so that, if they wish, we can keep them up to date on Sunrise and the pupils.  Here Karl is signing our Visitors ook, which we keep hidden amongst the foliage.



Talking of foliage, the Cashew tree near the front entrance of the school is just starting to fruit - adding greatly to the number of nuts that can be seen in and around Sunrise!





I have noticed that the school grounds are much cleaner than on my previous visit, possibly because at the moment there are no builders on site, but definitely helped by the little litter pickers who do a sweep of the area outside their classrooms before assembly!

No builders in sight!  Sadly our builder Eric has had to return to the UK a few weeks ago to sort out some medical problems.  Because he has a very tight hold on the purse strings the workers are doing other things until he returns at the end of the month, hopefully in time to get the roof on before the rains arrive.  It is impressive nonetheless.


 This term, the final year Skills students are back from their work placements and here you can see them on the left briefing the first and second year students on their experiences and what they have learnt during their three months on the front line.


And finally, after work had finished on Friday afternoon I spotted Skills student Awa Joof practicing her hairdressing skills on Sendeng applying 'hair extensions' - whatever they are!